Thomas P. Gallagher was a man of eclecticism and deep deliberation.
He was someone who in one instance could expertly pick the best music to put on a mixtape for his daughter and the next minute hustle around a backgammon or bridge game like nobody's business. During work hours, he was known for his insightful reasoning when taking on arbitration decisions. His love for family, friends and his life work as a lawyer and arbitrator — which he pursued until his early 80s — was almost matched by his love for learning new things and reading.
He would power walk for three or four hours at a time around Lake of the Isles, Lake Harriet and Bde Maka Ska, listening to Teaching Company lectures on his Walkman cassette player on subjects like philosophy and history. He graduated to a CD player over time.
Gallagher died on Jan. 2 in hospice care from a progressive illness. He was 86.
Tara Gallagher, his daughter, said her father was an honorable person with a strong commitment to fairness and justice.
"He was just a really kind person, he had a big personality, he could be sort of overpowering because he was so smart and sometimes you felt like he was the only brain in the room," Tara Gallagher said.
"In his heart of hearts he always cared about everybody and really wanted the best for everybody."
His father, who died in 1985, was Thomas F. Gallagher, who served on the Minnesota Supreme Court. The younger Gallagher grew up in the Kenwood neighborhood of Minneapolis and received his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Minnesota, graduating cum laude in 1958 at just 23 years old. He was note editor at the Minnesota Law Review, an accomplishment he cherished.
He heard nearly 2,000 arbitration cases over his career. In his final weeks, Gallagher told family members his proudest moment was when Frank Elkouri, a former professor at the University of Oklahoma who was a leading expert on labor arbitration, told him at a conference he was one of the best arbitrators in the country.
"He really lived out a commitment to justice, so in his arbitration he would always be really deliberate and work really hard on each decision and he would weigh out both sides," Tara Gallagher said.
Black-and-white photos of Gallagher rubbing shoulders with Bobby Kennedy and Walter Mondale, and waving to a crowd with his wife, Barbara, during his unsuccessful 1966 campaign for Minnesota Supreme Court also offer a glimpse of his life.
A swipe through Gallagher's Kindle tablet reveals the range of books that captured the voracious reader's attention: "When Einstein Walked with Godel" by Jim Holt; "Paris in the Present Tense" by Mark Helprin; "Leonardo da Vinci: The Biography" by Walter Isaacson; and books by Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Tara Gallagher said her father would send her mixtapes in college that would introduce her to new songs or provoke her to laugh at how "hip" her father's taste was. The mixtapes had a little bit of everything, including Earl Scruggs, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Diana Krall.
Like a true Minnesotan, Gallagher loved his lakeside walks and, as a doting father, would spend time with his kids flying box kites with twine and the dowels in Kenwood Park.
Survivors include his children Thomas C. Gallagher; Conall Gallagher of Dresser, Wis.; Tara Gallagher of Bozeman, Mont.; and Kevin Gallagher of Minneapolis; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Barbara, died in 2002.
Memorial and burial services are planned for May 21 at the Lakewood Cemetery Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis.
Marissa Evans • 612-673-4280